Secret Sources: Helene Cornell

Considering San Diego-based photographer Helene Cornell has garnered national attention for a side project rehabbing vintage trailers—her spruced-up "canned hams" make offbeat vacation rentals tailor-made for hipsters (think wood-paneled walls, bohemian bedding, vintage stoves)—we'd venture to say she knows a thing or two about eco-design. Eager to strip San Diego of its reputation as a sunny destination for corporate conventions, she gives her favorite high-design choices for “green” resorts near the Cal-Mex border that require little more than sunscreen, an adventurous spirit, and, in some cases, deep pockets.

Hotel Endemico

Baja is back. And I am loving it! For some time there has been a negative stigma associated with travel in Mexico. In Tijuana, it's an inspiration to see small businesses taking dramatic risks with design, food and tourism--we are seeing huge leaps toward modernity there. Be forewarned: if you have an expensive car, or an obvious rental car, or if your Spanish is rusty, you may have to pay a tourist tax if you get pulled over. Don’t worry though, it's worth it for what awaits! The eco-friendly Hotel Endemico is only a 90-minute drive from San Diego. Its design incorporates materials that blend seamlessly into the environment. Tiny cabins overlooking the Guadalupe Valley were designed by Tijuana-based Gracia Studio. Their simplicity encourages visitors to slow down and be present. Why not make this your home base while you visit some local farms and wineries? Hotel Endemico is an inspirational new look at hospitality, changing how we experience nature and travel.

Cuatro Cuatros

Cuatro Cuatros has 12 eco-cabanas that integrate outdoor living with mountain views. Luxe safari tents feature fine linens, terraces and open-air showers. The onsite winery produces their own label (be sure to declare your bottles at the border). There is a restaurant (also in a cabana, of course) and access to private hiking trails that wind in every possible direction within the vast Guadalupe Valley. The rustic-modern use of all-natural materials highlight the rural landscape. An equestrian center, vineyard and boutique hotel are in the works, as well as several housing units. I'm excited to see what’s in store on my next visit.

Urban Holiday Rentals

I'm excited to see San Diego stepping it up when it comes to tourism! Many travelers only think of San Diego as a great place to hold conventions, but there are fun options that provide more local flavor. Urban Holiday Rentals is a network of vacation homes that highlight creative spaces for travelers on a budget. You can rent a century-old craftsman home in a historical neighborhood for your entire family or one of my vintage trailers for a cozy adventure. I encourage guests to support small businesses by walking or biking to local cafes and vintage shops.  All of our home rentals offer lush backyards with grills and gardens—the focus is on spending time outdoors with your family, which is what vacations should be all about. 866-746-8605